It's my first week as Kavana's new Rabbinic Fellow, and I want to reach out to you to introduce myself and try to convey just some of my immense excitement for being here working with you
It's my first week as Kavana's new Rabbinic Fellow, and I want to reach out to you to introduce myself and try to convey just some of my immense excitement for being here working with you.
This season feels full of possibility, not only because of today's glorious weather, but because of so many new beginnings: We just moved to Seattle (an exciting return "back West" for us); our daughter Amaryah turned one the very day we arrived and our son Erez Noam turned three exactly one week later; the kids started in their new day care and pre-school (Erez Noam will be at Kavana's Gan this Fall and enjoyed the Kavana Mini-Camp last week, Amaryah will join him in a year); and my wife Pella got a very cool new job the day after we arrived! All of these are exciting developments that have us feeling like Seattle is welcoming us and that this marks the beginning of a new phase of growth and learning for the whole family.
And of course, my new job is practically bursting with possibility. I will be working in several areas, all of them exciting and interesting to me in their own ways, including social justice, the teen program, the Friday night musical service, adult education, spirituality, B'nai Mitzvah, and more yet to be discovered. And it's not just the work but the setting that excites me -- Kavana feels like just the right place for me to be. I love that Kavana is a diverse group of people who come together to connect and take ownership of their Judaism -- this approach speaks to me as someone who draws from many expressions of Judaism and as a former community organizer. And also as a community organizer, I am thrilled that Kavana is about partnership -- between and amongst partners and rabbis and staff. I am truly looking forward to learning and creating and acting and celebrating together with you. And of course, being part of the Jewish Emergent Network Fellowship is thrilling -- learning what makes innovative communities like Kavana tick, together with the other JEN Fellows, speaks to my interest in creativity and change-making in Jewish community. In Kavana and JEN, I feel like I've really won the prize. I became a rabbi to do work just like this with folks just like you.
This week's Torah portion, Pinchas, relates a remarkable story of partnership that led to historic change. Five women -- the daughters of Tzelophchad (if anyone thought our kids' names were a mouthful...!) -- acted boldly together in advocating for their right to inherit their late father's property. They were met with receptivity first by Moses and then by God, who responded by incorporating their innovation into the laws of the Torah. The fact that partnership -- first among the sisters, and ultimately between them and Moses and God -- was integral to this important early step towards greater equality should give us confidence that our partnership model is on the right track and has precedent in our tradition. And it seems like an auspicious time to begin my partnership with you -- to together introduce innovations into the Jewish world, to together transform our own lives and the world around us.
Please feel free to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to meet over coffee/tea or for a walk (especially while the weather is like this!) -- one of the things I like best about this work is all the opportunities to get to know people, so I will really welcome the opportunity. We can talk about Kavana, our Jewish journeys, visions for Kavana and the future, and what we might do together. And we're always looking for folks to spend time at parks with on weekends while the kids play, or to celebrate Shabbat with in Queen Anne, so let us know if you're into those things, too.
At Kavana, since our inception, we have described "risk-taking" as a value of our organization. However, we've always meant that in the entrepreneurial sense... in that we have taken risks in our approach to Jewish education, ritual, community-building, and more. Where we have NOT taken risks -- nor do we care to do so! -- is in any situation where thesafety and well-being of our community members are on the line. (Jewish law supports us in this, and incidentally, the value of "pikuach nefesh," "saving a life" was the topic of our last Havdalah Club event... among other things, the kids talked about proactive steps we should take to ensure the safety of ourselves and others.)
Last Shabbat, Jewish communities everywhere read Parashat Yitro, which tells the story of the giving of the Ten Commandments and describes revelation at Sinai, a peak moment of closeness between the Israelites and God.
It's easy to get caught up in what's NOT working these days... from the "via-doom" traffic situation here in Seattle, to the Federal government's partial shut-down. We know that these situations are real and that their effects can be felt... mildly, by some, and much more severely by others. Gridlock, whether physical or metaphorical, is painful.That said, at Kavana, we have always prided ourselves on our ability to focus on what IS working, what possibilities there CAN be, and where there is potential for FORWARD MOTION.